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Improving the robustness of the iterative solver in state-space modelling of guitar distortion circuitry


Abstract and Figures

Iterative solvers are required for the discrete-time simulation of nonlinear behaviour in analogue distortion circuits. Unfortunately, these methods are often computationally too expensive for real-time simulation. Two methods are presented which attempt to reduce the expense of iterative solvers. This is achieved by applying information that is derived from the specific form of the nonlin-earity. The approach is first explained through the modelling of an asymmetrical diode clipper, and further exemplified by application to the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster guitar pedal, which provides an initial perspective of the performance on systems with multiple nonlinearities.
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Proc. of the 18th Int. Conference on Digital Audio Effects (DAFx-15), Trondheim, Norway, Nov 30 - Dec 3, 2015
Ben Holmes and Maarten van Walstijn
Sonic Arts Research Center
School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, Northern Ireland, U.K.
Iterative solvers are required for the discrete-time simulation of
nonlinear behaviour in analogue distortion circuits. Unfortunately,
these methods are often computationally too expensive for real-
time simulation. Two methods are presented which attempt to re-
duce the expense of iterative solvers. This is achieved by applying
information that is derived from the specific form of the nonlin-
earity. The approach is first explained through the modelling of
an asymmetrical diode clipper, and further exemplified by applica-
tion to the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster guitar pedal, which
provides an initial perspective of the performance on systems with
multiple nonlinearities.
In physical modelling of analogue distortion circuitry, the great-
est challenges are typically posed by the modelling of nonlinear
components, such as diodes, triodes, and bipolar junction tran-
sistors (BJTs). In recent literature, this topic has attracted spe-
cific attention in relation to real-time implementation, which ne-
cessitates a sharp trade off between accuracy and efficiency, with
a further possible requirement of parametric control, i.e. allow-
ing on-line updates of the system parameters. Various modelling
paradigms have emerged to meet these demands, including Wave
Digital Filters (WDF) [1, 2], state-space models (including the K-
method and variants thereof) [3, 4, 5, 6], and Port-Hamiltonian
Systems [7]. Each of these appoaches can make use of a precom-
puted lookup table (LUT) that stores the nonlinear behaviour, thus
avoiding the need to solve a multidimensional system of implicit
nonlinear equations on-line (see, e.g. [8]). The downside of the
use of LUTs is that it complicates parametric control, in particular
when dealing with multivariate nonlinearities. One way to address
this is by decomposing the nonlinearity, which significantly re-
duces the computational complexity, although accurate simulation
of complex circuits will require very large table sizes [9]. For uni-
variate cases (i.e. circuits with a single nonlinearity or with mul-
tiple, separable nonlinearities), WDFs are exceptionally suited to
real-time implementation, offering both efficiency and modularity
[10]. However, these properties do not readily extend to modelling
systems with multiple, non-separable nonlinearities, in which case
device-specific simplifying assumptions have to be made to avoid
multivariate root-finding [11, 12].
A more general approach is offered by state-space methods,
but initial formulations were not particularly suited to paramet-
ric control due to the need for computationally expensive matrix
inversions. An elegant solution was offered in [13], proposing
a Nodal DK formulation that employs strategic matrix decom-
position to reduce the inversion costs associated with parameter
updates, without sacrificing the beneficial feature of automated
derivation of the state-space equations. Nevertheless, the approach
still requires numerically solving a system of nonlinear equations,
which is commonly achieved with Newton’s method or variants
thereof. Such iterative methods entail the risk of not converging to
a suitably accurate solution within a limited number of iterations, a
problem that is most prevalent when driving the circuit with signals
of high amplitude and/or frequency, and that is further exacerbated
when increasing the number of non-separable system nonlineari-
In this paper we present two new adaptations of Newton’s
method which exploit the form of the nonlinear function of the
selected system to help limit the computational cost of finding
the root. A key feature is their amenability to parameter updates
through the use of analytic expressions. The performance of these
methods with the Nodal DK-method is evaluated through compar-
ison with existing root-finding methods in terms of robustness and
computational efficiency.
The Nodal DK-method was first developed in [3] to algorithmi-
cally generate state-space models of nonlinear audio circuits. The
method applies Modified Nodal Analysis (MNA) to build a com-
putable system from nodal equations, and uses the trapezoidal rule
to discretise reactive components. The specific method used in this
paper to model circuits is described in [13]. The state space model
is represented by
x[n] = Ax[n1] + Bu[n] + C f(vn[n]) (1)
y[n] = Dx[n1] + Eu[n] + F f(vn[n]) (2)
vn[n] = Gx[n1] + Hu[n] + K f (vn[n]) (3)
where xis the state variable, uis the model input, yis the model
output, and f(vn)represents the terminal currents of the nonlinear
elements relative to the nonlinear voltage vn. Coefficient matrices
AHand Kcontrol the linear combinations of each variable
used to update the state and output. The model is updated by first
finding the nonlinear voltage state, which is then used to update
the state variable. To find the nonlinear voltage state, vn, (3) must
be solved numerically. This amounts to finding the root of the
g(vn[n]) = p[n] + Kf (vn[n]) vn[n](4)
where p[n] = Gx[n1] + Hu[n].
Proc. of the 18th Int. Conference on Digital Audio Effects (DAFx-15), Trondheim, Norway, Nov 30 - Dec 3, 2015
Initially, a wide selection of root-finding methods were trialled to
assess which met conditions that suggest real-time capability. The
methods must both: be extendible to multivariate cases, and con-
verge within a specified number of iterations.
In the domain of audio circuit modelling, nonlinear elements
are based upon physical properties. Functions based upon these
properties typically have unique roots, and sufficiently well-
conditioned gradients that many root finding methods utilise. We
therefore define the term non-convergent as a measure of robust-
ness, where for cases on specific computational systems either:
the current value exceeds values representable by normal floating
point arithmetic; or the number of iterations exceeds a limit that
can be completed in an allocated amount of time.
3.1. First Order Methods
Newton’s method uses a linear approximation to the nonlinear func-
tion to successively find better approximations to the root of the
function. Several methods use this technique as a basis, of which
four are discussed. A more comprehensive understanding of these
methods can be obtained from the literature [14].
3.1.1. Newton’s Method
The iterative method employed by Newton’s method is typically
expressed as
vi+1 =viJ1(vi)g(vi)(5)
where viand vi+1 are the current and next iterate, g(vi)is func-
tion at the current iterate known as the residual, and J(vi)is the
Jacobian matrix.
To detect when a root has been found, the inequality
|vi+1 vi|<TOL must be satisfied, which specifies the error
is less than a certain tolerance, represented by TOL. The toler-
ance is selected by the user, and often informed by the required
accuracy of the result, and the system’s numerical precision.
3.1.2. Damped Newton’s Method
By applying damping to Newton’s method, iterations that increase
the residual can be corrected. This is accomplished by reducing
the step size until the residual at the new iterate is less than the
residual at the previous iterate. This is applied to (5) as a scalar
multiplier of the step, so that
vi+1 =vi2mJ1(vi)g(vi)(6)
where the value of mis the smallest integer that satisfies the in-
equality [14]
||gvi2mJ1(vi)g(vi)|| ≤ ||g(vi)||.(7)
The value of mis found by iteratively incrementing the value un-
til the condition is satisfied. Damped Newton’s method has been
shown to be successful for nonlinearities that are more likely to
demonstrate non-convergence, for example BJTs [15, 16].
3.1.3. Chord Method
The most expensive operation in Newton’s method is the calcula-
tion of the inverse Jacobian. To lessen the computational cost of
the method, it is possible to only calculate the Jacobian at the ini-
tial iterate, and use this at each successive iterate. A disadvantage
of this method is that if the Jacobian at the initial iterate causes a
step that overshoots the root, the overshoot is more likely to hap-
pen successively, causing divergence from the root.
3.1.4. Secant Method
The secant method uses a difference method to calculate the Ja-
cobian. In univariate cases, it has been successfully applied in the
simulation of a triode [12]. For multivariate models the method ex-
tends to Broyden’s method. To numerically approximate the Jaco-
bian, Broyden’s method requires an initial Jacobian which it then
updates using a difference method. Upon initial testing, Broyden’s
method was less robust than the Chord method. For this reason it
was not included in the final comparison.
3.2. Quadratic Methods
Halley’s method extends Newton’s method using both Jacobian
and Hessian matrices to form a quadratic approximation to the
nonlinear function. Supporting literature demonstrates that Hal-
ley’s method has faster convergence than Newton’s method [17].
It was found that Halley’s method was less robust than Newton’s
method, and it was for this reason Halley’s method was not in-
cluded in the final comparison.
Brent’s method implements a difference approach to form a
quadratic function [18]. Additional bracketing and conditions are
applied to improve robustness. For univariate cases, this method
proved to be the most robust method, and exhibited good conver-
gence. However, the method has not been extended to multiple
dimensions so was not included within the final comparison.
3.3. A Semi-Analytic Form
The Lambert W function provides analytical solutions for equa-
tions of the form
W(z)eW(z)=z. (8)
This has been applied successfully to diodes with series resistance
both in a general case [19] and using Wave Digital Filters [20].
The Lambert W function is also applicable to state-space mod-
els. It does not extend to multivariate cases and therefore was not
included in the final comparison, but is functional for univariate
cases. This can be shown using a generic circuit featuring a single
diode modelled using the Shockley equation from (12). The non-
linear function from (4) must then be re-arranged into the form of
(8) to find W(z)and z. For the diode case this gives
W(z) = K(f(vn)) IS)
, z =KIS
Where Kis the coefficient from (4) in scalar form. Solving for
f(vn)then yields
f(vn) = NVT
An accurate model of anti-parallel diodes can be formed by adapt-
ing (10), taking the absolute value of pand multiplying f(vn)by
sgn(p)[20] to incorporate the polarity. This relies on the assump-
tion in (18), where for this case ab. For asymmetrical diodes, a
conditional statement must be applied, incorporating both the po-
larity of f(vn)and the different coefficients in the Shockley equa-
With respect to the variable vn, the function of g(vn)in (4) can
be decomposed into a constant term, a linear term, and a nonlinear
Proc. of the 18th Int. Conference on Digital Audio Effects (DAFx-15), Trondheim, Norway, Nov 30 - Dec 3, 2015
g(vn[n]) = p[n] + Kf (vn[n])
| {z }
where gn(vn[n]), and gl(vn[n]) indicate nonlinear and linear func-
tion components. In this section we propose two new Newton-
based methods that employ system knowledge derived from this
decomposition: the Capped Step and New Iterate methods. These
methods are explained using two case studies, covering both uni-
variate and multivariate nonlinearities. Sound examples and mod-
els can be found at:
4.1. Univariate Case: Asymmetrical Diode Clipper
A univariate nonlinearity is exemplified here by a diode clipper,
which has been covered extensively in the literature [21, 6]. The
circuit uses the exponential nature of the voltage-current relation
of the diode to limit the voltage output. The specific diode clipper
used here can be seen in Figure 1, and features anti-parallel diodes
in a 2:1 ratio.
Figure 1: Schematic of the modelled asymmetrical diode clipper.
0 1 2 3 4 5
Time (ms)
Figure 2: A2 V,1 kHz sine wave processed by both SPICE and
state-space diode clippers. fs= 176.4 kHz
The Shockley model is used as the component model for the
diodes, representing the current through a diode as
where ISis the reverse saturation current, VDis the voltage across
the diode, VTis the thermal voltage, and Nis the ideality factor.
Noting in this case vn=VD, the asymmetric combination forms
the nonlinear term
f(vn) = ISe
where the factor of 1/2in the second exponent represents the two
diodes, as each diode carries half of the voltage drop across the ter-
minals. This relies on the assumption that the diodes are identical.
−1.5 −1 −0.5 0 0.5
‘‘Linear’’ Region
Kf (vn)
Figure 3: Decomposed regions of the diode clipper nonlinearity
where p[n] = 0,fs= 176.4 kHz.Vtr
+= 0.5052 V, V tr
1.0731 V.
For this specific model, the following component values were
used: R1= 2200 Ω,C1= 0.01 µF,IS= 2.52 nA,N= 1.752,
VT= 25.8 mV. The diode values are taken from LTspice IV [22],
and refer to a 1N4148 signal diode. The state-space model has
been validated using SPICE, which is illustrated in Figure 2.
4.1.1. Capping the Newton Step
A problematic case for Newton-based methods arises when the
gradient at the initial iterate causes a Newton step that overshoots
the root of the function. The exponential nature of the examined
nonlinear terms prevents this for large values of p[n]. When p[n]
is small, the nonlinear term becomes significantly smaller than the
linear term, which can cause an overshoot if the root is not in close
proximity. In extreme cases, the residual exceeds values repre-
sentable by normal floating point arithmetic. As seen in Section
3.1.2, applying damping to Newton’s method aids this with the
trade-off of sub-iterations.
An alternative approach is to set a maximum step size, for
example with a simple comparative function:
vn=(sgn(∆vn)Vlim,|vn|> V lim
vn,|vn| ≤ Vlim (14)
where vnand vnrepresent the capped and unaltered step size,
Vlim is the limit placed upon it, and the signum function adjusts
the polarity. For this to be successful, a limit must be specified
that is large enough to prevent drastically increasing the number
of iterations required. A suitable value is defined by finding the
transitional voltages beyond which the nonlinear term is dominant,
as illustrated in Figure 3 (which also compares the decomposition
of the nonlinear function from (11)). The distance of this voltage
from the origin is applied as the limit, such that Vlim =|Vtr |,
where Vtr is the transitional voltage.
4.1.2. Defining System-Specific Transitional Voltages
To find the transitional voltages of the nonlinear function, the gra-
dient information of the nonlinear and linear terms are compared.
For the univariate case, this amounts to finding the two values of
vnfor which dgl/dvn=dgn/dvn. Applying this using (18) to
Proc. of the 18th Int. Conference on Digital Audio Effects (DAFx-15), Trondheim, Norway, Nov 30 - Dec 3, 2015
separate terms yields
1 = KIS
Solving these equations for vnfinds the transitional voltages, ex-
pressed as:
+=NVTlog NVT
KIS, V tr
=2NVTlog 2NVT
4.1.3. Setting a Strategic Initial Iterate
Typically, the solution from the previous sample is used as an ini-
tial iterate to find the solution at the current sample. Fast conver-
gence then relies on the assumption of small inter-sample differ-
ences, but this breaks down with inputs of high-frequency and/or
amplitude, depending also on the sampling frequency. An alterna-
tive to this is to use an approximation to the nonlinear function,
which will place the initial iterate at a position which prevents
overshoot of the root (as discussed in Section 4.1.1) and is inde-
pendent of the past sample. This forms the basis of the New Iterate
method, which attempts to reduce the dependency of convergence
on the input and sampling frequency.
The proposed approximation to the univariate version of (11)
is formed by removing the linear term, which is accurate when vn
is large. If the nonlinear term f(vn[n]) is an invertible function,
this allows for an analytical solution for vn[n], where the general
univariate form is
n[n] = f1p[n]
To apply this to the asymmetrical diode clipper, the nonlinear func-
tion can be separated into positive and negative terms, using the
assumption ea|vn|1eb|vn|1(18)
where aand bare positive constants. The two separate functions
can then be inverted to solve for the new initial iterate
n[n] =
NVTlog 1p[n]
KIS, p[n]0
2NVTlog 1 + p[n]
KIS, p[n]<0
where p[n]is used to determine the polarity.
4.2. Multivariate Case: Dallas Rangemaster
To exemplify systems with more than one nonlinearity, the Dal-
las Rangemaster is modelled. The Rangemaster is an early “treble
booster” pedal which increases the amplitude of the guitar signal to
drive the amplifier into further saturation, particularly at higher fre-
quencies. Figure 4 illustrates the complete schematic of the model,
with R4modelling the load of the circuit. The pedal features one
parameter which changes the gain, but for the purpose of compar-
ison it was set to maximum.
The nonlinear behaviour is caused by the PNP BJT, which is
modelled using the Ebers-Moll injection model. The Ebers-Moll
model represents the current through each terminal (Base, Collec-
tor, and Emitter) as a combination of the voltages across its ter-
minals. For a complete model, only two of these equations are
Table 1: Component values of the Rangemaster circuit.
R1470 kΩ R41 MΩ C24.7 pF
R268 kΩ V R110 kΩ C347 µF
R33.9 kΩ C147 µFC410 pF
required as the third can be found using superposition [21]. The
current-voltage relationships can thus be represented by
βR+ 1
where βFand βRare the forward and reverse common-emitter
current gain. The original Rangemaster used a germanium BJT,
but for the model generic parameters were used: IS= 10 fA,
βF= 200,βR= 2 and VTremains the same as for the diode
clipper case. The full nonlinear function is expressed by
g(vn) = p+KIB
The component values are shown in Table 1. The state-space model
was validated with SPICE, which is illustrated in Figure 5. To pro-
duce this result, both simulations were initialised with steady-state
Vcc C1
V R1
Figure 4: Schematic of the modelled Dallas Rangemaster Treble
0 1 2 3 4
Time (ms)
Figure 5: A200 mV,1 kHz sine wave processed by both SPICE
and state-space Rangemasters. Vcc = 9 V,fs= 176.4 kHz.
4.2.1. Setting a Multivariate Initial Iterate
Finding an approximation of a multivariate function follows the
same process as applied to the univariate case. To find the inverted
Proc. of the 18th Int. Conference on Digital Audio Effects (DAFx-15), Trondheim, Norway, Nov 30 - Dec 3, 2015
form of the Ebers-Moll functions, they must be decomposed. To
accomplish this, the Ebers-Moll functions can be expressed as the
product of a square matrix and a vector:
The simplified nonlinear equation of the nodal DK-method can
then be solved for the vector containing the exponents:
where Q=KL. Values for VEB and VEC are then solved for by
separately inspecting the terms in (24), where VEC is found from
the lower term after first determining VEB from the upper term:
EB =VTlog1ˆp1, V NI
EB VTlog1ˆp2(25)
where ˆp=Q1p.
4.2.2. Defining System-Specific Transitional Voltages
Each term of the Ebers-Moll functions depends upon VEB, which
complicates the process of finding independent transitional volt-
ages. By creating a new voltage vector ˆv=VEB VCBTusing
the substitution VCB =VEB VEC, two voltages are provided of
which to find the transitions. The equation gn/∂ ˆv=gl/∂ˆv
is then used to find each transition. Two transitions are found for
Q11 and Vtr
Q21 ,(26)
and one transition is found for VCB,
Q22 .(27)
As the solution for Vtr
CB is found using the partial derivative w.r.t.
VCB,VEB is ignored allowing the limit relative to VEC to be de-
fined as Vlim
EC =|Vtr
EC|=| − Vtr
4.2.3. Capping the Multivariate Newton Step
To apply capping to a multivariate step, the same function from
(14) can be applied individually to each term. The lower of the
two values from (26) is applied as the limit for VEB. In the case of
the modelled BJT, these values are in close proximity so that the
difference in performance is negligible.
To assess the efficiency of the root-finding methods, they were
compared in terms of the number of operations required to con-
verge. The Lightspeed Matlab toolbox [23] was used to provide
costs of floating point operations (FLOPs). Integer operation costs
were set equal to the floating point equivalent. Branch operations
were given the same cost as logical and relational operators. Con-
trol dependencies were ignored for simplicity as they are difficult
to represent using an operation cost. These choices inform two
specifications about the theoretical hardware used for the simula-
tion: the integer and floating point hardware performs equally, and
there is no instruction level parallelism (i.e. operation pipelining).
The cost of each operation used within the algorithms is stated in
Table 2.
Table 2: Cost of individual operations.
Operation Cost
logical, relational,
abs() 4
sgn() 5
exp() 40
||x||22M+ 7
Solve using LU M3+1
5.1. Method Costs
Using the values and expressions from Table 2, the cost of each
method was determined. Each cost is determined based upon the
number of dimensions it is solving for, M, and the number of it-
erations it performs, i. Additionally, the Damped Newton method
requires sub-iterations, denoted by is. The costs of calls to the
function and Jacobian are represented by CFand CJrespectively.
Clim and Citer represent the initial cost of calculating the transi-
tional voltages and the approximate initial iterate. These values
are found at each time step, assuming each method is applicable to
audio rate parametric control.
The cost of each method is denoted using subscript: CNfor
Newton’s method; CDfor Damped Newton’s method; CCfor the
Chord method; CCS for Newton’s method with the capped step
applied; and CNI for Newton’s method with the new initial iterate.
2M+CJ+CF+ 8(28)
2M+CJ+CF+ 12
+is6M+CF+ 6
2M+CF+ 8(30)
CCS =CN+ 21M+ 21iM +Clim (31)
CNI =CN+Citer (32)
Table 3 contains the cost of constant values for both the diode clip-
per and the Rangemaster models. Using this information, numeri-
cal values were obtained for the cost of an iteration and the initial
computation for each algorithm. These are displayed in Table 4.
Test simulations were designed to compare the performance of
each method against two properties: the amount of oversampling
Proc. of the 18th Int. Conference on Digital Audio Effects (DAFx-15), Trondheim, Norway, Nov 30 - Dec 3, 2015
Table 3: Cost in operations of constant values for both diode clip-
per and Rangemaster models.
Variable Diode Clipper Rangemaster
Clim 32 124
Citer 37 130
CF105 234
CJ121 359
Table 4: Model-specific cost in operations for the computation
required for one iteration and the initial computation of each
Diode Clipper Rangemaster
Method Init. Iter. Init. Iter.
Newton 234 253 624 646
Damped 234 261 +
624 658 +
Chord 234 132 624 287
New It. 271 253 754 646
Capped 287 274 790 688
applied, and the peak voltage of the input. Oversampling is com-
pared to test how efficient each method is on computational sys-
tems with different processing capabilities.
A 30 period, 1 kHz sine wave was used to drive the models.
The sine wave was modulated by a Hann window so that the ampli-
tude varied across the range of the nonlinearity. For both circuits,
the peak voltage of the input was chosen to match what can be
expected from a real circuit. As a diode clipper is typically situ-
ated after amplification, the highest peak voltage was set at 9 V,
which presumes the system uses a dual-rail ±9 V power supply.
The Rangemaster is designed to be placed at the start of a gui-
tarist’s signal chain, so the input reflects a guitar’s output. For this
reason a representative highest peak voltage was set at 300 mV,
although it is noted guitar output voltages can exceed this. The
power supply voltage for the Rangemaster model, Vcc was set to
9 V.
To ensure a fair comparison, the parameters of the root find-
ing methods were set constant between models and methods. The
tolerance was set to 1012, and the maximum number of itera-
tions was set to 100. Observed inefficiency of Damped Newton’s
method was corrected by limiting the number of sub-iterations to
Results from the simulations were filtered to emulate the buffer-
ing of a real system. Figure 6 shows an example of the unfiltered
iterations, and the iterations after being processed by a moving av-
erage filter with a window of 2 ms. Table 5 shows results of a set
of 16 simulations. Both maximum iteration and operation counts
are provided, for which a filtered version and unfiltered version
are displayed. Figures 7 and 8 illustrate the performance of the
diode clipper and Rangemaster over a range of amplitudes, with
no oversampling.
The most notable result from these simulations is that both
Chord and Newton’s methods exhibit non-convergent behaviour in
a variety of tests in which the other three methods are convergent.
Of these remaining methods, each has several test cases in which
it is the most efficient.
One exclusive feature is the uniform behaviour of the New
0 5 10 15 20 25
0 5 10 15 20 25
Time (ms)
Moving Av.
Figure 6: Input/Output and iteration count of a 1 kHz,200 mV
sine wave modulated by a hann window processed by the Range-
master state-space model using Newton’s method, fs= 88.2 kHz.
Unfiltered and moving average filter results shown, and maximum
values marked with .
Iterate method. This is clearly observable from the consistent be-
haviour relative to sampling frequency, with the maximum vari-
ation of 1 iteration (peak) for the case of the Rangemaster with
a peak voltage of 300mV. Figure 7 and 8 confirm this behaviour
relative to input voltage, although with higher variance.
In this paper two novel root-finding methods were presented using
system derived knowledge to improve robustness. The results in-
dicate that for cases of moderate peak voltage and higher sampling
frequency, Newton’s method is sufficiently robust and relatively
efficient. However, for more challenging cases (i.e. cases of high
peak voltage and/or low sampling frequency), Newton’s method
was found to be non-convergent. In principle this can be addressed
by using Damped Newton’s method, although for several tests it
proved to be less efficient than both proposed methods.
The uniform behaviour of the New Iterate method allows the
setting of a fixed number of iterations without risking non-
convergence, thus alleviating control dependencies. This cannot
be achieved by Damped Newton’s method, as a branch instruction
is required to reduce the step size. The Capped Step method can
be configured without control dependencies, but due to its high
variance finding a fixed number of iterations is non-trivial. Con-
trol dependencies were not considered in this paper as they require
focus at a hardware level, but they are known to significantly de-
crease processor performance [24]. This property suggests that
considerable efficiency could be gained using a fixed number of
iterations with a method as opposed to a conventional configura-
tion. To assess the consequences of control dependencies, further
investigation is required.
A key aspect of the proposed iterative methods is that they
rely on the availability of an analytic inverse of either the non-
linear term of the equation to be solved for or its first derivative.
This criterion is generally satisfied since the components in dis-
tortion circuits are normally modelled with monotone analytical
Proc. of the 18th Int. Conference on Digital Audio Effects (DAFx-15), Trondheim, Norway, Nov 30 - Dec 3, 2015
1800 Moving Average
Max Operations
New Iter.
6000 No Averaging
Max Operations
Figure 7: Maximum operations against input gain for the diode
clipper model, no oversampling applied. (Top) The peak averaged
iteration cost (Bottom) The peak iteration cost.
functions. However one possible limitation is that the analytic
inverse function for a specific component model contains signif-
icantly more terms than in the cases presented in this study, which
may then increase the computational costs accordingly. Hence a
further interesting research direction to explore in future research
is to test the methodology on more complex component models.
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0 50 100 150 200 250 300
8000 Moving Average
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Figure 8: Maximum operations against input gain for the Range-
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Table 5: Results from simulations of both the diode clipper and Rangemaster models, fs= 44.1 kHz. Average notates a moving average
filter has been applied, Peak notates no filtering. Entries marked "-" indicate the method was non-convergent.
Average Peak Average Peak Average Peak Average Peak
Its. Ops. Its. Ops. Its. Ops. Its. Ops Its. Ops. Its. Ops. Its. Ops. Its. Ops.
Diode Clipper, Vpeak = 1 V
Newton 3.2 1038 5 1499 2.8 953 4 1246 2.6 896 3 993 2.3 810 3 993
Damped 3.2 1064 5 1539 2.8 976 4 1278 2.6 917 3 1017 2.3 828 3 1017
Chord 9.1 1434 48 6570 5.7 981 15 2214 4.2 787 8 1290 3.4 679 6 1026
New It. 5.5 1670 6 1789 5.5 1656 6 1789 5.4 1644 6 1789 5.4 1631 6 1789
Capped 3.2 1158 5 1657 2.8 1066 4 1383 2.6 1004 3 1109 2.3 911 3 1109
Diode Clipper, Vpeak = 4.5 V
Newton 4.0 1240 13 3523 3.3 1080 8 2258 3.0 982 5 1499 2.7 927 4 1246
Damped 3.8 1233 7 2295 3.3 1100 6 1917 3.0 1005 5 1539 2.7 949 4 1278
Chord - - - - - - - - 6.8 1132 99 13302 4.7 854 17 2478
New It. 5.5 1667 6 1789 5.6 1685 6 1789 5.7 1718 6 1789 5.8 1742 6 1789
Capped 4.0 1371 12 3575 3.3 1203 8 2479 3.0 1097 5 1657 2.7 1038 4 1383
Rangemaster, Vpeak = 100 mV
Newton 2.9 2518 3 2562 2.8 2442 3 2562 2.6 2308 3 2562 2.3 2091 3 2562
Damped 5.2 5085 11 12902 3.9 3619 7 6994 3.1 2769 5 4670 2.3 2185 4 3508
Chord 5.7 2259 8 2920 4.5 1911 6 2346 3.8 1703 5 2059 3.4 1587 4 1772
New It. 8.4 6176 9 6568 8.4 6177 9 6568 8.4 6156 9 6568 8.0 5922 9 6568
Capped 2.9 2808 3 2854 2.8 2726 3 2854 2.6 2583 3 2854 2.3 2352 3 2854
Rangemaster, Vpeak = 300 mV
Newton - - - - - - - - 2.8 2427 41 27110 2.5 2241 19 12898
Damped 6.4 7013 19 23962 5.0 5122 20 25124 3.9 3852 23 28610 3.0 2867 22 27448
Chord - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
New It. 8.4 6169 12 8506 8.4 6177 13 9152 8.4 6151 13 9152 8.0 5922 13 9152
Capped 3.8 3434 26 18678 3.2 3006 21 15238 2.7 2667 21 15238 2.5 2510 13 9734
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... One of the most commonly used iterative solvers in VA modelling is the Newton-Raphson method [11], [19], [25], [26]. Newton's method finds an approximation to the roots of a function, so in order to solve (2.13), let: ...
... Starting from some initial guess, the next iterate (i.e approximation to v n ) can be expressed by: [19] v ...
... A modification can be made to the plain Newton's method to prevent divergence, by ensuring the residual decreases in magnitude at each iterate. This can be achieved by reducing the step size by a factor of 2 until the current residual is less than the previous [19]: ...
Full-text available
Aliasing is an inherent problem in virtual analogue modelling when simulating nonlinear systems such as guitar amplifiers and distortion effects units. Such systems introduce harmonics into the signal, which in the discrete-time domain can exceed the Nyquist frequency, resulting in unpleasant aliasing distortion. Recent research has shown that aliasing can be significantly reduced by using the antiderivatives of the nonlinear function, and that this method can be applied to systems with state as well as memoryless nonlinearities. In this work, the application of antiderivative antialiasing in the state-space modelling of several nonlinear circuits will be outlined in detail. Existing literature has focused on one-port nonlinearities, so in this work a method for two-port nonlinearities is proposed and demonstrated by example. Furthermore, a second order antialiasing method for state-space models is presented. The antialiasing methods were found to significantly improve the signal to noise ratio and reduce aliasing at low oversampling rates. In the case of scalar nonlinearities, the methods introduced no notable extra computational cost, but for two-port nonlinearities the processing time increased with the order of antialiasing. Finally, the suitability of antiderivative antialiasing in a real-time context was demonstrated through the development of a virtual analogue guitar effects plug-in.
... However, getting close to the sound of a real guitar amplifier is a real challenge that Chris Wilson's examples did not address. Many papers have been written about vacuum-tube guitar amplifiers modeling [1] [6], and about the particularities of linear and non-linear distortion effects suited for guitar [2][3][4] [5]. More generally, works such as James J. Clark's "Advanced programming techniques for modular synthesizers" book, are not focused on guitar but discuss thoroughly the different approaches for achieving a distortion effect. ...
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We propose to present a tube guitar amplifier simulation we’ve been designing using the Web Audio API with the aim to faithfully reproduce the main parts of the Marshall JCM 800 amplifier schematics. Each stage of the real amp has been recreated (preamp, tone stack, reverb, power amp and speaker simulation). We’ve also added an extra multiband EQ. This “classic rock” amp simulation we’ve been building has been used in real gigs and can be favorably compared with some native amp simulation both in terms of latency, sound quality, dynamics and comfort of the guitar play. The amp is open source1 and can be tested online2, even without a real guitar plugged-in. It comes with an audio player, dry guitar samples and a wave generator that can be used as inputs. Figure 1 shows the current GUI, with some optional frequency analyzers and oscilloscopes that we’ve been using to probe the signal at different stages of the simulation. One purpose was to evaluate the limits of the Web Audio API and see if it was possible to design a web-based guitar amp simulator that could compete with native simulations.
... Many papers have been written about vacuum-tube guitar amplifiers modeling [1] [6], and about the particularities of linear and non-linear distortion effects suited for guitar [2][3][4] [5]. Some works such as James J. Clark "Advanced programming techniques 3 for modular synthesizers" book, are not focused on guitar but cover in deep the different approaches for achieving a distortion effect on a signal [9]. ...
Conference Paper
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This paper presents a tube guitar amplifier simulation made with the WebAudio API, that reproduces the main parts of the Marshall JCM 800 amplifier schematics. Each stage of the real amp has been recreated (preamp, tone stack, reverb, power amp and speaker simulation, and we added an extra multiband EQ). The “classic rock” amp simulation we built has been used in real gigs and can be compared with some native amp simulation both in terms of latency, sound quality, dynamics and comfort of the guitar play. Unfortunately, as of today, low latency can be achieved only with certain configurations, due to audio driver limitations of current browsers on certain operating systems. The paper discusses the latency problems encountered with WebAudio, common traps, current limitations, and proposes some solutions.
... Depending on the nonlinear solver and the initial parameter set, this can drastically influence the computational load of the digital model. Although Holmes et al. described a method for improving the nonlinear solver [116], the computational load is still high, especially for complex circuits with multiple nonlinearities. Additionally Holters proposed a method to automatically decompose the large statespace matrices into smaller ones to be able to solve the system quicker [105]. ...
Full-text available
Digital systems gain more and more popularity in todays music industry. Musicians and producers are using digital systems because of their advantages over analog electronics. They require less physical space, are cheaper to produce and are not prone to aging circuit components or temperature variations. Furthermore, they always produce the same output signal for a defined input sequence. However, musicians like vintage equipment. Old guitar amplifiers or legendary recording equipment are sold at very high prices. Therefore, it is desirable to create digital models of analog music electronics which can be used in modern digital environments. This work presents an approach for recreating nonlinear audio circuits using system identification techniques. Measurements of the input- and output-signals from the analog reference devices are used to adjust a digital model treating the reference device as a ‘black-box’. With this technique the schematic of the reference device does not need to be known and no circuit elements have to be measured to recreate the analog device. An appropriate block-based model is chosen, depending on the type of reference system. Then the parameters of the digital model are adjusted with an optimization method according to the measured input- and output-signals. The performance of the optimized digital model is evaluated with objective scores and listening tests. Two types of nonlinear reference systems are examined in this work. The first type of reference systems are dynamic range compressors like the ‘MXR Dynacomp’, the ‘Aguilar TLC’, or the ‘UREI 1176LN’. A block-based model describing a generic dynamic range compression system is chosen and an automated routine is developed to adjust it. The adapted digital models are evaluated with objective scores and a listening test is performed for the UREI 1176LN studio compressor. The second type of nonlinear systems are distortion systems like e.g. amplifiers for electric guitars. This work presents novel modeling approaches for different kinds of distortion systems from basic distortion circuits which can be found in distortion pedals for guitars to (vintage) guitar amplifiers like the ‘Marshall JCM900’, or the ‘Fender Bassman’. The linear blocks of the digital model are measured and used in the model while the nonlinear blocks are adapted with parameter optimization methods like the Levenberg–Marquardt method. The quality of the adjusted models is evaluated with objective scores and listening tests. The adjusted digital models give convincing results and can be implemented as real-time digital versions of their analog counterparts. This enables the musician to safe a snapshot of a certain sound and recall it anytime with a digital system like a VST plug-in or as a program on a dedicated hardware.
... Therefore, there is always a possibility that a large number of iterations will be required, significantly increasing computation time. Holmes et al. present a root-finding method that allows for a set number of iterations through the use of analytic inverses of the nonlinear equations to be solved [23]. ...
Full-text available
This paper presents in detail the state-space approach to virtual analog modeling. A variety of different numerical methods are derived and implemented so that their performance may be compared. Four different guitar effects circuits are analyzed and simulated, and the detailed MATLAB code for each is provided.
... Many papers have been written about vacuum-tube guitar amplifiers modeling [1] [6], and about the particularities of linear and non-linear distortion effects suited for guitar [2][3][4] [5]. More generally, works such as James J. Clark's "Advanced programming techniques for modular synthesizers" book, are not focused on guitar but discuss thoroughly the different approaches for achieving a distortion effect. ...
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... To understand the cost of increasing the complexity of the BJT model, computational requirements of each model were compared. The nonlinear equation of the circuit models was solved using damped Newton's method as described in [16], which uses an inner iterative loop to aid in convergence. This provides three metrics: time needed for one second of simulation, average iterations, and average sub-iterations. ...
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The Ebers-Moll model has been widely used to represent Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJTs) in Virtual Analogue (VA) circuits. An investigation into the validity of this model is presented in which the Ebers-Moll model is compared to BJT models of higher complexity , introducing the Gummel-Poon model to the VA field. A comparison is performed using two complementary approaches: on fit to measurements taken directly from BJTs, and on application to physical circuit models. Targeted parameter extraction strategies are proposed for each model. There are two case studies , both famous vintage guitar effects featuring germanium BJTs. Results demonstrate the effects of incorporating additional complexity into the component model, weighing the trade-off between differences in the output and computational cost.
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... A critical issue encountered when stochastically selecting parameter sets for the Dallas Rangemaster is that the simulation can fail. This happens when the nonlinear solver does not converge to the root of the equation [19]. To counteract this, failing parameter sets are regenerated using the stochastic technique used to generate the initial population. ...
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We propose to present a set of web audio plugins specialized in three kinds of sounds. The first one targets blues / classic rock sounds and proposes a drop down menu with presets that go from clean warm blues like the tones used by BB King, to more classic rock/blues distorted sounds as used by Jimmy Hendrix or AC/DC. The second one is aimed to Hi-Gain/Metal sounds similar to Mesa Boogie type of sounds, and the third one is an acoustic guitar simulator (enabling the use of an electric guitar to get an acoustic folk guitar sound). These plugins are partially available in open source, but the versions we propose to demo are commercialized by our laboratory (French CNRS/SATT Sud-Est) and included in some commercial DAWs.
Full-text available
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Conference Paper
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The nodal DK method is a systematic way to derive a non-linear state-space system as a physical model for an electrical circuit. Unfortunately, calculating the system coefficients requires inversion of a relatively large matrix. This becomes a problem when the system changes over time, requiring continuous recomputation of the coefficients. In this paper, we present an extension of the DK method to more efficiently handle variable circuit elements. The method is exemplified with the Dunlop Crybaby wah-wah effect pedal, as the continuous change of the potentiometer position is an extremely important aspect of the wah-wah effect.
Most electric guitar players make use of different amplifiers in combination with auxiliary effect units. These electronic or electro-acoustic devices affect the instrument's tone in a complex manner and give the play a unique sound. The term "amp modeling" refers to signal processing algorithms that intend to imitate the behavior of these devices as true to original as possible - a topic that can be found both in commercial products and academic research. In this paper the simulation of the "Fuzz-Face" is presented, a popular nonlinear analog circuit from the 1960s that distorts the guitar signal with germanium transisors. The presented modeling is based on a state-space description with minimal system order. After performing the system analysis in continuous time domain, a trapezoidal rule discretization is executed. The simulation results are compared to a reference and show good match. The processing in real-time, the computational complexity, and the quality of the sound reproduction are discussed.
This small book on Newton's method is a user-oriented guide to algorithms and implementation. Its purpose is to show, via algorithms in pseudocode, in MATLAB®, and with several examples, how one can choose an appropriate Newton-type method for a given problem and write an efficient solver or apply one written by others. This book is intended to complement my larger book [42], which focuses on indepth treatment of convergence theory, but does not discuss the details of solving particular problems, implementation in any particular language, or evaluating a solver for a given problem. The computational examples in this book were done with MATLAB v6.5 on an Apple Macintosh G4 and a SONY VAIO. The MATLAB codes for the solvers and all the examples accompany this book. MATLAB is an excellent environment for prototyping and testing and for moderate-sized production work. I have used the three main solvers nsold.m, nsoli.m, and brsola.m from the collection of MATLAB codes in my own research. The codes were designed for production work on small- to medium-scale problems having at most a few thousand unknowns. Large-scale problems are best done in a compiled language with a high-quality public domain code. We assume that the reader has a good understanding of elementary numerical analysis at the level of [4] and of numerical linear algebra at the level of [23, 76]. Because the examples are so closely coupled to the text, this book cannot be understood without a working knowledge of MATLAB. There are many introductory books on MATLAB. Either of [71] and [37] would be a good place to start. Parts of this book are based on research supported by the National Science Foundation and the Army Research Office, most recently by grants DMS-0070641, DMS-0112542, DMS-0209695, DAAD19-02-1-0111, and DAAD19-02-1-0391. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Army Research Office.
A new family of wave-digital vacuum tube triode models is presented. These models are inspired by the triode model by Cardarilli , which provides realistic simulation of the triode's transconductance behavior, and hence high accuracy in saturation conditions. The triode is modeled as a single memoryless nonlinear three-port wave digital filter element in which the outgoing wave variables are computed by locally applying the monodimensional secant method to one or two port voltages, depending on whether the grid current effect is taken into account. The proposed algorithms were found to produce a richer static harmonic response, introducing comparable or less aliasing and requiring approximately 50% less CPU time than previous models. The proposed models are suitable for real-time virtual analog circuit simulation.
This work extends previous research on numerical solution of nonlinear systems in musical acoustics to the realm of nonlinear musical circuits. Wave digital principles and nonlinear st ate-space simulators provide two alternative approaches explored in this work. These methods are used to simulate voltage amplifica- tion stages typically used in guitar distortion or amplifier circuits. Block level analysis of the entire circuit suggests a strate gy based upon the nonlinear filter composition technique for connect ing amplifier stages while accounting for the way these stages in ter- act. Formulations are given for the bright switch, the diode clipper, a transistor amplifier, and a triode amplifier.